Sheni & Teni, a toy company dedicated to championing the pride and diversity of African heritage, is proud to release its’ latest product, a children’s picture book named ‘Ara Becomes Thundergirl’, inspired by the simple concept that ‘kindness it the new cool.’
The book is a wonderfully colourful and engaging new title that provokes discussion about responsibility, compassion, and mindfulness – all of which are concepts that should be introduced to children from a young age.
The book also comes with a Helper Certificate to reward young readers for their helpfulness both inside and outside the home, – an idea that has become even more crucial due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the hurt it has caused across the country.
Sheni & Teni ship across the UK and Europe (including Finland, Germany, and Ireland), Nigeria, Canada and the US.
Folasayo Williams, Founder of Sheni and Teni, explained her thoughts on their new release: “growing up, I was an avid reader, but the truth is, hardly ever did the characters in the books I loved so much look like me. Over 30 years later as I raise my children, I realise there’s been change, but not enough. I think it’s important to be the change you want to see.’
And that led her to write a children’s book featuring a kind-hearted female protagonist, in order to show her sons that girls are also heroes, and that kindness is the new cool.
‘I wanted to show my sons that their gorgeous skin tone is being represented positively in the protagonist. I wanted them to see their gorgeous skin tone being represented positively in the protagonist,’ said Folasayo.
Folasayo’s statement should resonate more now than ever before, since the growth of movements such as Black Lives Matter (#BLM). As of 2018, only 4% of British children’s books featured a main character who is BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic), according to the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education.
10% of the proceeds earned from “Ara Becomes Thundergirl” will be donated to Centrepoint UK, which is a charity founded to aid vulnerable young people to move past homelessness and towards a brighter, more secure future.
Folasayo Williams founded Sheni & Teni to help raise well rounded, confident, and empathetic children through cultural education and representation. She believes that representation matters to the utmost to the upbringing of a child, as their world is limited to what they see, and representation can build self esteem and positively shape what kids imagine possible.
Not only to champion representation, Folasayo seeks as well – to teach non-African people about the diverse and beautiful African cultures across the continent, by providing a space to learn about diversity from a young age.
Prior to creating Sheni & Teni, Folasayo has worked in the UK Financial Industry for over 12 years and has always had the same experience of being the ‘odd one out’ (by virtue of skin colour, background and gender) regardless of the institution, team or project she found herself working in.
This experience, coupled with her inability to find good quality toys that were representative of her culture, ethnic background and hue, as she began raising a young family – drove her to invest her savings into creating Sheni & Teni.
Sheni & Teni has received extensive media coverage in digital and printed formats, and was crowned Best Toy in the Absolutely Mama Awards 2020. Although, like many businesses Sheni & Teni was impacted by Covid, Founder Folasayo said 2020 was still an ‘interesting year,’ and explained:
‘We’ve dealt with delays in manufacturing and shipping due to Covid which has had great logistical impact.
We’ve also not been able to sell at pop-ups which has always been amazing for meeting customers. But at the same time, we’ve launched new products, 2 self-published children’s books, a free printable activity pack, a suite of positive daily affirmation wall art for kids’ and we’re currently working on a very exciting new product in collaboration with another small business as well.’
You can find out more about Sheni & Teni here.